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Volunteering and what it can do for you!!


Why Volunteer?

by Susan J. Ellis of Energize, Inc.

People volunteer for a wide variety of reasons, especially wanting to help others. But it's also OK to want some benefits for yourself from volunteering.

Some people are uncomfortable with the notion that a volunteer "benefits" from doing volunteer work. There is a long tradition of seeing volunteering as a form of charity, based on altruism and selflessness. The best volunteering does involve the desire to serve others, but this does not exclude other motivations, as well.

Instead of considering volunteering as something you do for people who are not as fortunate as yourself, begin to think of it as an exchange.

Consider that most people find themselves in need at some point in their lives. So today you may be the person with the ability to help, but tomorrow you may be the recipient of someone else's volunteer effort. Even now you might be on both sides of the service cycle: maybe you are a tutor for someone who can't read, while last month the volunteer ambulance corps rushed you to the emergency room. Volunteering also includes "self-help." So if you are active in your neighborhood crime watch, your home is protected while you protect your neighbors' homes, too. Adding your effort to the work of others makes everyone's lives better.

Your Motivations

Think about how much you receive when you give and consider why you want to volunteer. You may have several different reasons. Here are just a few of the many possible motivations identified by other volunteers:

  • to feel needed
  • to share a skill
  • to get to know a community
  • to demonstrate commitment to a cause/belief
  • to gain leadership skills
  • to act out a fantasy
  • to do your civic duty
  • because of pressure from a friend or relative
  • satisfaction from accomplishment
  • to keep busy
  • for recognition
  • to repay a debt
  • to donate your professional skills
  • because there is no one else to do it
  • to have an impact
  • to learn something new
  • for freedom of schedule
  • to help a friend or relative
  • for escape
  • to become an "insider"
  • guilt
  • to be challenged
  • to be a watchdog
  • to feel proud
  • to make new friends
  • to explore a career
  • to help someone
  • as therapy
  • to do something different from your job
  • for fun!
  • for religious reasons
  • to earn academic credit
  • to keep skills alive
  • because an agency is geographically close
  • to have an excuse to do what you love
  • to be able to criticize
  • to assure progress
  • to feel good
  • to be part of a team
  • to gain status
  • because you were asked
  • to test yourself
  • to build your resume
  • to be an agent of change
  • because of personal experience with the problem, illness, or cause
  • to stand up and be counted

You will probably have some special reasons of your own. Remember that the motivations you have to select the place to offer your services may not be the reasons why you stay. Once you're on the volunteer job, you will continue to serve as long as you feel that your efforts are accomplishing something, that your talents are appreciated, and that you make a difference. And if you also like the people with whom you work, so much the better!

As long as you are truly serving through your volunteer work, isn't it wonderful that such an exchange occurs? In fact, it tends to strengthen your commitment to volunteering when you can see the benefits to both the recipient of your efforts and to yourself. And it is much more comfortable than "charity" because it upholds the self-esteem of those with whom you volunteer. (above Copyrighted by Energize, Inc. reused with permission)


Volunteering is not just about other people, its also about YOU.

Working for a voluntary organization or a charity can help you develop these skills in a practical way, giving you real life experiences. Volunteering can also give you the opportunity to meet people and have fun. In return you have the satisfaction that what you are doing is worthwhile, may be directly helping people or solving organizations problems and you may even be contributing towards lasting change in our society.

Volunteering Ideas

Adult Basic Education:
Teaching English as a second language, helping adults and young people overcome difficulties with reading, writing and numeracy.
Advice Work:
Working in a Citizens Advice Bureau and other such centers.
Children and Young People:
Helping in a youth club or playing with children in hospital. Mentoring is another very important way to volunteer your time.
Working in a charity shop, helping with can collections, or organizing events.
Helping the disabled or elderly get out and about.
Working with Older People:
Helping with meals on wheels or visiting the elderly in their own homes.
Telephone counselling, befriending, or practical support for those affected.
Hospital Work:
Visiting & befriending patients, helping in a hospital shop.
Working with People with Learning Difficulties:
Helping with activities and outings in residential centers.
Working with People with Mental Health Problems:
Organizing and participating in social activities in a drop in center, or befriending and offering support.
Working with People with a Physical Disability:
Helping with sports activities such as swimming, or assisting with shopping or going to a movie.
Outdoor and Environmental Projects:
Planting trees, clearing rivers and ponds, repairing footpaths, environmental campaigning.
Other Areas:
Walking dogs, helping set up computer systems, mailing newsletters, helping send out information, answering the telephone etc....

The list is endless and you may even have your own ideas of the kinds of project you would like to be involved in.

See my links page for some great volunteer resource links.



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